South Africa to withdraw from the ICC

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By Catherine Hardy  with Reuters, The Guardian
South Africa to withdraw from the ICC

A startling disregard for justice

Dewa Mavhinga Human Rights Watch

South Africa has formally announced plans to withdraw from the International Criminal Court.

The country’s Justice Minister, Michael Masutha, says the court’s obligations are not consistent with legislation granting diplomatic immunity to sitting leaders.

“The implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Act, 2002, is in conflict and inconsistent with the provisions of the Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges Act, 2001,” Masutha told a press conference in the South African capital, Pretoria.

The requirement to arrest sitting heads of state who are indicted by the court could lead to regime change, Masutha explained.

This would go against South African legislation guaranteeing visiting leaders diplomatic immunity.

Masutha said a bill to repeal South Africa’s adoption of the ICC’s Rome Statute will soon be brought to parliament.

He said this would ensure the country’s continued ability to conduct active diplomatic relations.

What is the next step?

A document seen by the Reuters news agency at the UN on Thursday says the decision would become final one year after notice is formally received by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The document was signed by South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. It was dated October 19.

What is the context?

Pretoria said last year it was planning to quit the jurisdiction of the Hague-based tribunal.

It was criticised for ignoring a court order to arrest Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir during a visit last year.

He stands accused of genocide and war crimes, accusations he has denied.

What is the ICC?

The International Criminal Court is the world’s first legal body with permanent international jurisdiction to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

  • Set up by 1998 Rome Statute
  • Opened July 2002
  • 124 member states
  • 34 African member states
  • The US is not a member
  • 9 of 10 current investigations are in Africa

Are any other countries planning to leave?


Last week, politicians in Burundi voted overwhelmingly in support of plans to withdraw from the ICC.

“A startling disregard for justice”

Rights campaigners are criticising South Africa’s decision.

“South Africa’s proposed withdrawal from the International Criminal Court shows startling disregard for justice from a country long seen as a global leader on accountability for victims of the gravest crimes,” said Dewa Mahvinga from Human Rights Watch.